North Lakhimpur (Assam), January 21: A court in Assam’s Lakhimpur district on Friday remanded renowned innovator and Padma Shri awardee Uddhab Kumar Bharali to judicial custody in connection with a case of alleged sexual abuse of a minor girl he was fostering.
A day after his interim anticipatory bail was cancelled by the Gauhati High Court, Bharali surrendered before District Special Judge Rasmita Das at North Lakhimpur town.
The court sent Bharali to 14 days’ judicial custody, following which he was taken to the district jail, North Lakhimpur.
Bharali, who was awarded Padma Shri in 2019 for contributions to the field of science and engineering, claimed he is a victim of a conspiracy, which he will fight legally.
On Thursday, the Gauhati High Court had cancelled the interim anticipatory bail granted to Bharali for alleged sexual abuse of a minor girl he was fostering, noting that his custodial interrogation was “essential”.
After hearing the arguments of the counsel for the petitioner and the state, Justice Hitesh Kumar Sarma of the high court noted that custodial interrogation of Bharali is “essential” for the purpose of investigation of the case in view of the allegations made in the FIR as well as the statements by the victim and witnesses.
Justice Sarma, while delivering the order, relied on the case diary and statements of the minor victim as well as two other minor witnesses, who “categorically stated that the petitioner had committed sexual intercourse not only with the victim girl but also with some others, who were also under foster care of the petitioner”.
The anticipatory bail plea was filed by Bharali, credited with nearly 150 innovations, on December 23 last year against the FIR at North Lakhimpur police station under various sections of the Indian Penal Code and the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act.
The pre-arrest bail was granted to the innovator on December 28 by a vacation bench.
“I am a victim of a conspiracy. As my bail plea was rejected, I have no other option but to surrender. I will go and present myself in front of the CJM today,” Bharali told reporters at his North Lakhimpur residence before going to the district court.
While cancelling his anticipatory bail, the high court said the victim has not only stated “commission of sexual intercourse” on her by Bharali, but also “very specifically and chronologically” narrated the sequence of events and the manner in which the offence was committed by the accused petitioner.
Bharali’s counsel A M Bora, assisted by D K Baidya, claimed in the high court that Anil Kumar Bora, the Chairman of Child Welfare Committee (CWC) of Lakhimpur, had a grudge against the petitioner and he had manipulated the facts, leading to filing of the FIR.
Advocate Bora also stated that one of the girls in the foster care was operated upon for some ailments and Bharali had sought reimbursement of the medical expenses from the CWC which had “anguished the chairman of the C.W.C. Shri Anil K Bora”.
The high court order said, “Learned senior counsel for the petitioner has also referred to various achievements of the petitioner to suggest that a person of his standing and repute would not commit an offence as alleged in the instant case.
The petitioner’s counsel also projected the “humanitarian approach” of Bharali and argued that he has been running a home for destitute women, ‘Seneh’, in Lakhimpur using his own personal resources in spite of not receiving any grant from the government.
According to the FIR, the victim was given in the custody of the petitioner and his wife Iva Das Bharali under foster care for a period of one year from August 31, 2020 on the condition that on expiry of the said period, the foster care has to be renewed or the child was to be placed before the CWC.
“However, the petitioner neither renewed the foster care nor produced the girl before the CWC even after expiry of the foster period, due to which, CWC issued letter requesting him to produce the child i.e. the victim and another girl…. before the CWC on or before 14.09.2021,” the order said.
Ultimately, the petitioner had produced the victim and another girl before the CWC on October 28 last year, it added.
“It has further been alleged in the FIR that apart from engaging the victim in some household works the petitioner had done some bad acts with her in spite of initial objection by her.
“She remained silent on the assurance of her foster father, i.e. the petitioner that nothing will happen to her. She was asked to remain silent by the foster father, i.e. the petitioner,” Justice Sarma wrote in his order. (PTI)